Post #1: For Palm Sunday: St Cyril’s Exegetical Homilies On The Passion Of Luke(22:1-16)

Post #1.  Over the next several days I will be posting a series of exegetical homilies from St Cyril of Alexandria on the Passion according to Luke.  This first post contains two of those homilies.  Although the title of this first post identifies the homilies as being on 22:1-16, the fact is that the first homily begins at 21:37.  The reason for this is that just as in Mark and Matthew, so too in Luke, there is a connection between Jesus’ eschatological (end time) discourse and themes in the Passion, most notably the need for vigilance and prayer; a fact clearly not lost on St Cyril. Photo source and info.

More resources for this Palm Sunday Mass can be found here.

This Exposition is fit to be read on the Thursday of the Mystery. 4

21:37-22:6. And by day He was teaching in the temple, and at night He went out and abode in the mount called of Olives: and all the people came early to Him in the temple to hear Him. And the feast of unleavened bread drew near, which is called the Passover, and the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him: for they feared the people. But Satan entered into Judah, surnamed Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve, and He went and spoke to the chief priests and captains, how he might deliver Him to them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money: and he promised, and sought a fitting season when he could deliver Him to them without the multitude.

THE throng of the Jews, together with their ruler, stood up against the glory of Christ, and contended with the Lord of all. But any one may perceive that it was against their own souls that they prepared their snare, for they dug for themselves pitfalls of destruction, and, as the Psalmist says, “The heathen are taken in the snare which they have made: in the trap which they have laid is their foot taken.’” For the Saviour and Lord of all, though His right hand is almighty, and His power overthrows both corruption and death, yet submitted Himself of His own accord by becoming flesh to the tasting of death for the life of all, in order that He might make corruption cease, and do away with the sin of the world, and deliver those that were under the hand of the enemy from his unendurable tyranny. But that rebellious serpent perhaps imagined that He had prevailed even over Him, in that He suffered, as I said, death in the flesh for our sakes, as the dispensation required: but the wretched being was disappointed of his expectation. |656

Let us then see how he missed his game, and shot wide of his mark, when he made Christ his prey, and delivered Him into the hands of those murderers. It says then, that “by day He taught in the temple, but lodged during the nights in the mount called of olives.” Now plainly what He taught were things which surpass the legal service: for the time had come when the shadow must be changed into the reality. And they heard Him gladly; for oftentimes they had wondered at Him, “because His word was with power.” For He did not, like one of the holy prophets, or as the hierophant Moses, call out to men, “These things says the Lord:” but as Himself being He Who of old spoke by Moses and the prophets, and the Lord of all, He transferred with godlike authority to a spiritual worship what had been prefigured in types, and the weakness of the letter: “for the law made nothing perfect.”

And He lodged during the nights, as I said, in the Mount of Olives, avoiding the uproars there were in the city, that He might in this also be a pattern to us. For it is the duty of those who would lead a life quiet and calm, and, so to speak, full of rest, to avoid as far as possible the crowd and tumult.

But let us see the course of the devil’s malice, and what was the result of his crafty designs against Him. He had then implanted in the chiefs of the synagogue of the Jews envy against Christ, which proceeded even to murder. For always, so to speak, this malady tends to the guilt of murder. Such, at least, is the natural course of this vice: so it was with Cain and Abel; so plainly it was in the case of Joseph and his brethren; and therefore the divine Paul also very clearly makes these sins neighbours, so to speak, of one another, and akin: for he spoke of some as “full of envy, murder.” They sought therefore to slay Jesus, at the instigation of Satan, who had implanted this wickedness in them, and who also was their captain in their wicked enterprises. For he is himself the inventor of murder, and the root of sin, and the fountain of all wickedness. And what was the contrivance of this many-headed serpent? “He entered, it says, into Judah Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.” Why not rather into the blessed Peter, or into James, or John, or some other of the rest of the apostles, but into Judah Iscariot? What place did Satan find in him? Of all whom we have here mentioned he could approach |657 none, because their heart was steadfast, and their love to Christ immoveable; but there was a place for him in the traitor. For the bitter malady of covetousness, which the blessed Paul says is “the root of all evil,” had overpowered him. For once also when a woman had poured ointment upon the Saviour, he alone of all rebuked her, saying, “To what purpose is this waste? For it could have been sold for much, and given to the poor.” But the wise Evangelist rose, so to speak, against his feigned words: for immediately he adds: “But this he spoke, not because he had forethought for the poor, but because he was a thief, and carried the purse, and whatever fell therein, he was the bearer of.” And Satan, being crafty in working evil, whenever he would gain possession of any man’s soul, does not attack him by means of vice generally, but searches out rather that particular passion which has power over him, and by its means makes him his prey. As he knew therefore that he was covetous, he leads him to the Pharisees and captains; and to them he promised that he would betray his teacher. And they purchase the treachery, or rather their own destruction, with sacred money. Oh! what tears could suffice, either for him who betrayed Jesus for hire, or for those who hired him, and purchased with consecrated money a guilty murder! What darkness had come upon the soul of him who received the bribe! For a little silver, he lost heaven; he missed the crown of immortality, and the desirable honour of the apostleship, and to be numbered among the twelve, to whom Christ somewhere said, “You are the light of the world.” He cared not to be a light of the world: he forgot Christ, Who says, “You who have followed Me in My temptations, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” But he wanted not to reign with Christ. What a confusion too of error blinded the mind of that covetous man! He delivered to death Him Who is greater than death. Did you not know that Lazarus was raised on the fourth day from the grave, and that at His nod the widow’s son also revived, and the daughter of the chief of the synagogue? Did you not hear Him say to the Jews concerning His body, “Destroy this temple: and in three days I will raise it up again?” Did you forget His words, “I am |658 the resurrection and the life?” What therefore was the cause of such utter frenzy? The Evangelist tells us, where he says, “Satan entered into him,” having obtained as his pathway and door the passion of avarice. And yet “the fear of God with a sufficiency is great gain:” and, as the sacred Scripture says, “We neither brought anything into the world, nor can we carry [anything] out.” And “those who seek to be rich, fall into numerous and unprofitable lusts, which sink men in pitfalls and destruction.” And of this the disciple who became a traitor is a manifest proof: for he perished for the sake of a few wretched shekels.

And what shall one say of those who hired him? That they fell into the very same pitfalls with him. Plainly they were the victims of a like intoxication, even though they had the reputation of being well acquainted with the law and the words of the holy prophets. It was their duty to have known the meaning of what had been spoken of old, as being before decreed by God concerning them. For among others are words like these, “My wrath is kindled against the shepherds, and I will visit the lambs.” For the wicked shepherds perished miserably: while the calling of those who were obedient to salvation was a kind of visitation; for a remnant of Israel was saved. And, as if already, so to speak, they had fallen into ruin and destruction, and were wailing and weeping on this account, the prophet hoard, he says, “the voice of shepherds wailing, because their might was brought low: the voice of lions roaring, because the pride of Jordan was spoiled.” He calls the lions the pride of Jordan, by whom wore figured the chiefs of the Jewish synagogue: who, in just requital of their wickedness against Christ, wailed with their fathers and children, being consumed as with fire and sword, while the temple at Jerusalem was also burnt, and the cities throughout all Judaea abandoned to utter desolation.

Such then was their fate: but Christ saves us by His merciful will; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. |659

SERMON CXLI.

This Exposition is fit to be read on Thursday in the week of the Mystery.

22:7-16. Then came the day of unleavened bread, on which it was fitting for the passover to be sacrificed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare for us the passover, that we may eat. And they said to Him, Where will You that we prepare? And He said to them, Behold, when you have entered into the city, there shall meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water: follow him to the house into which he enters. And say to the master of the house, The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest-chamber, where I may eat the passover with My disciples? And he will show you a large upper room, provided with couches; there make ready. And they went, and found as He said to them; and they made ready the passover. And when the time was come, He lay down to meat, and the twelve apostles with Him. And He said to them, I have desired a desire to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for 1 say to you, that henceforth I twill not eat of it, until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

THE law by its shadows prefigured from of old the mystery of Christ: and of this He is Himself the witness where He said to the Jews, “If you had believed Moses, you would have believed also Me: for he wrote concerning Me.” For everywhere He is set forth, by means of shadows and types, both as slain for us, as the Lamb without blame and true; and as sanctifying us by His life-giving blood. And we further find the words of the holy prophets in complete accordance with those of most wise Moses. But when “the fulness of time was come,” as Paul says, in which the Only-begotten Word of God was about to submit to the emptying of Himself, and to endure the birth in the flesh of a woman, and subjection also to the law, according to the measure that was fitting for human |660 nature, then He was also sacrificed for us, as the lamb without blame and true, on the fourteenth day of the first month. And this feast-time was called Phasek, a word belonging to the Hebrew language, and signifying the passing over: for so they explain it, and say that this is its meaning.

We must explain then what it is from which we pass over, and on our journey to what country, and in what manner we effect it.

As then Israel was delivered from the tyranny of the Egyptians, and having loosed its neck from the yoke of bondage, was now free; and fleeing from the violence of the tyrant passed with dry foot in a manner wonderful and beyond the power of language to describe through the midst of the sea, and journeyed onwards to the promised land: so must we too, who have accepted the salvation that is in Christ, be willing no longer to abide in our former faults, nor continue in our evil ways, but manfully cross over the sea, as it were, of the vain trouble of this world, and the tempest of affairs that is therein. We pass over therefore from the love of the flesh to temperance; from our former ignorance to the true knowledge of God; from wickedness to virtue: and in hope at least, from the blame of sin to the glories of righteousness, and from death to incorruption. The name therefore of the feast on which Emmanuel bore for us the saving cross, was the Passover.

But let us behold Him Who is the Truth still honouring the types, and Him Who was represented therein still permitting the shadows to hold good. “For when the day, it says, had come, on which it was fitting for the passover to be sacrificed, He sent to the city two men chosen from the holy apostles, Peter namely and John, saying, that there shall |661 meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water: follow him to the house into which he enters; and say to the master of the house, The Teacher says to you, where is the guest-chamber, where I may eat the passover with My disciples?” ‘But why, some one perchance may say, did He not plainly mention the man to those whom He sent? For He did not say, Having gone to such and such a person, whoever it might be, there prepare for us at his house the passover: but simply gave them a sign,—-a man bearing a pitcher of water.’ To this then what do we reply? That lo! already Judas the traitor had promised the Jews to deliver Him to them, and was continuing in His company watching for an opportunity; and while still making profession of the love that was the duty of a disciple, he had admitted Satan into his heart, and was travailing with the crime of murder against our common Saviour Christ. He gives a sign therefore, to prevent him from learning who the man was, and running to tell those who had hired him. “For there shall meet you, He says, a man carrying a pitcher of water.”

Or even perchance He so speaks signifying something mystical and necessary thereby. For whither the waters enter, even those of holy baptism, there lodges Christ. How, or in what manner? In that they free us from all impurity, and we are washed by them from the stains of sin, that we may also become a holy temple of God, and partakers of His divine nature, by participation of the Holy Spirit. In order therefore that Christ may rest and lodge in us, let us receive the saving waters, confessing moreover the faith that justifies the wicked, and raises us aloft so as for us to be accounted “an upper room.” For those in whom Christ dwells by faith have a mind raised aloft, unwilling to creep upon the dust, and refusing, so to speak, to be set upon the earth, and everywhere seeking that which is exalted in virtue. For it is written, that “the mighty ones of God are raised high above the earth.” “For here they have no abiding city, but seek that which is to come:” and while walking upon earth, their thoughts are set upon those things which are above, and “their dwelling is in heaven.” |662

We may also notice something true, but wonderful, that happens, so to speak, constantly among us: namely that those who prize their carnal life are often puffed up, and have their heart full of pride accursed and hated of God; but yet perhaps they are brought to humiliation even upon earth: while those who are poor in spirit obtain exaltation by the honour and glory which comes from God. For as the disciple of Christ writes, “Let the humble brother glory in his exaltation, but “the rich in suffering humiliation: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” He therefore would not miss the truth, who should say that the soul of every saint is “an upper room.”

When then the disciples had prepared the passover, Christ ate it with them, being long-suffering towards the traitor, and deigning to admit him to the table from His infinite loving-kindness: for he was already a traitor, because Satan was lodging within him. And what did Christ also say to the holy apostles? “I have desired a desire to eat this passover with you.” Let us examine the deep purport of this expression: let us search out the meaning concealed therein, and what it is which the Saviour intends.

As then I have already said that covetous disciple was seeking an opportunity to betray Him: and, that he might not deliver Him to His murderers before the feast of the passover, the Saviour did not declare either the house or the person with whom He would celebrate the feast. To explain therefore to them the cause of His unwillingness openly to tell them with whom He would lodge, He says, “I have desired a desire to eat with you this passover:” apparently meaning, I have used all diligence to enable me to escape the wickedness of the traitor, that I might not endure My passion before the time.

“But I will not eat of this passover until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And in this again Christ utters a profound and mysterious truth, of which He Himself, however, reveals to us the meaning. For it is His custom to give the name of “the kingdom of heaven” to justification by faith, to the cleansing that is by holy baptism and the participation of the Holy Spirit, and to the offering of spiritual service, now rendered possible by the entering in of the gospel laws. But these things are the means of our being made partakers of the |663 promises, and of our reigning together with Christ: and therefore He says, “I will no more draw near to such a passover as this,” one namely that consisted in the typical eating,—-for a lamb of the flock was slain to be the type of the true Lamb,—-“until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God:” that is, until the time has appeared in which the kingdom of heaven is preached. For this is fulfilled in us, who honour the worship that is superior to the law, even the true passover; nor is it a lamb of the flock which sanctifies those who are in Christ, but Himself rather, being made a holy sacrifice for us, by the offering of bloodless oblations, and the mystical giving of thanks, in which we are blessed and quickened with life. For He became for us “the living bread that came down from heaven, and gives life to the world:” by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. |664

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One Response to Post #1: For Palm Sunday: St Cyril’s Exegetical Homilies On The Passion Of Luke(22:1-16)

  1. Pingback: Year C: Palm Sunday Commentaries on the Processional and Gospel Readings | stjoeofoblog

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